Three statistics I read recently really hit home: 250 million, 60 million, and 47 million.

In order of ascending despair, an estimated 47 million Americans do not have health insurance; approximately 60 million Americans have “no bank account and few assets;” and United States taxpayers are shelling out $250 million a day for the war in Iraq.

$250 million a day.

That’s a staggering figure. I found it in a piece by George McGovern and William Polk in Harper’s Magazine this month, laying out a very detailed-and reasonable-cost-analysis of what it would take to pull out of Iraq honorably. Every American should read it. After all, it’s our money.

$250 million a day. Just think how much we’ll spend if the “stay-the-course” people keep us there for the indefinite future.

How can we afford it? And how can we afford the enormous waste in a dysfunctional health care system that fails to cover 47 million people (according to a recent New York Times editorial)?

But it was the 60 million figure that shocked me. In Tom Holmes’ piece in today’s paper about an innovative partnership on the West Side between Park Bank (formerly First Bank of Oak Park), two Lutheran non-profit organizations, and the federal government, a press release from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans notes, “For the approximately 20 percent of Americans with no bank account and few assets, life can be a daily gamble.”

Twenty percent? This country has a population of approximately 300 million people. Twenty percent is 60 million people with no bank account and few assets. Wow, looks like the free market over the last quarter-century-from Ronald Reagan through George W. Bush-didn’t exactly raise all boats, did it? At the height of the Depression, FDR said he saw a third of a nation poorly fed, housed and clothed. Twenty percent isn’t very far removed.

All three branches of government, meanwhile, rest in the hands of people who defend torture, pre-emptive war, warrantless surveillance of innocent Americans, obeying the law only when the president feels like it, trashing the Geneva conventions, serving the rich, and maintaining a voting system that has less and less credibility with every election.

The question isn’t whether America is on the wrong track. The burning question is, “Can anything be done about it?” At lunch last week, a friend said she thought it was already too late, and I’ve heard that from more than one person.

Are we screwed?

Could be. Many Americans are still very much in denial. This administration may generate an unusual amount of outrage and ill will, both at home and abroad, but it’s just politics, they say-more Democrat vs. Republican intramural sparring. Bush is doing the best he can, and so will the next president and the next. Things will work out.

I don’t know how long it will take before Americans recognize that leaving everything in the hands of the Republican Party is a really bad idea, and that, alas, the Democrats aren’t much better. Even if you believe in the power of the people, how can we overcome the corruption of the polling place, where minority voting is effectively “suppressed,” districts are gerrymandered to secure re-election, and our ballots are held hostage by completely unreliable electronic devices that may well be rigged-or at least subject to frequent malfunction?

Is Democracy finished? Is the experiment over? Are we trying to export (at the point of a gun) something that has already expired back home?

Americans don’t like to hear questions like these. We’re an optimistic, can-do people, the talking heads keep telling us. But we’re spending $250 million a day on a completely unnecessary war with no clear strategic purpose that appears to be failing by almost any reasonable measure while 60 million Americans have no bank account and few financial assets, and 47 million Americans have no health insurance.

One thing is certain: Nothing will change until more good people start pulling their heads out of the sand.

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